Made-for-TV presidency

President Bush seems to be all about image and very little about substance. Several reports have enumerated the extremes the administration will go to to "sell" policy decisions, influence opinion polls, and play for the cameras. And I'm not just talking about the costly and unnecessary press conference aboard the USS Lincoln:
The White House efforts have been ambitious — and costly. For the prime-time television address that Mr. Bush delivered to the nation on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the White House rented three barges of giant Musco lights, the kind used to illuminate sports stadiums and rock concerts, sent them across New York Harbor, tethered them in the water around the base of the Statue of Liberty and then blasted them upward to illuminate all 305 feet of America's symbol of freedom. It was the ultimate patriotic backdrop for Mr. Bush, who spoke from Ellis Island.

For a speech that Mr. Bush delivered last summer at Mount Rushmore, the White House positioned the best platform for television crews off to one side, not head on as other White Houses have done, so that the cameras caught Mr. Bush in profile, his face perfectly aligned with the four presidents carved in stone.

And on Monday, for remarks the president made promoting his tax cut plan near Albuquerque, the White House unfurled a backdrop that proclaimed its message of the day, "Helping Small Business," over and over. The type was too small to be read by most in the audience, but just the right size for television viewers at home.
To sell his monster tax plan, Bush appeared on TV in Indianapolis, but, to convey the impression that the tax cut benefits not just the rich, Bush staffers asked the VIP audience members to remove their ties. Sadly, this stuff works: despite a mushrooming deficit, a $350 billion tax cut just passed, and Bush's approval rating remains sky high. I wish we had an electorate that would vote on diplomacy and results, rather than manufactured, reality TV-style charisma.

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